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Proof the Voting Rights Act Has Helped Boost Black Political Representation

[Excerpt from The Atlantic Cities]


October 4, 2013

When the Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act in June, it eliminated a long-standing distinction that certain states and communities – due to their deep histories of discrimination – warranted extra scrutiny under the law. Those places, identified in Section 4, were required to "pre-clear" any changes to voting laws or procedures with the federal government (a requirement outlined in Section 5). Now that is no longer the case.

Nearly half a century after the VRA's passage, critics had begun to argue that the law had successfully served its purpose (see: America's first black president, and these demographics that elected him), and that states like Texas and Alabama no longer deserved to be tarred by their past intolerance.

A very interesting new study to be published in The Journal of Politics makes clear, however, that Section 5 of the VRA – which is now effectively irrelevant – played a major role in boosting black political representation, and that its impact was ongoing. The study's authors, Paru R. Shah of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Melissa J. Marschall of Rice University, and Anirudh V. S. Ruhil of Ohio University, examined the racial makeup of city councils across the country between 1981 and 2006.

To read the entire article click here to visit their website.